Who Killed the R&B Group? That’s the Question

The Supremes

*At Washington, D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall, the crowd — a mix of distinguished salt-and-pepper goatees and shellacked updos — awaits Charlie Wilson, former front man for the Gap Band. But first En Vogue, the once ubiquitous, platinum-selling R&B group from the ’90s, is opening the show.

Fifteen minutes past the scheduled start time, they emerge — minus Dawn Robinson — to muted applause. In a style that is all but extinct, they strut in unison, dressed in matching gold-lamé blouses, performing über-modified versions of the provocative choreography that once accompanied their award-winning singles. Time may have taken a toll on their two-step, but it’s done nothing to their pipes. En Vogue sound as pristine as they did 20 years ago.

Two men stand in the audience, iPhones held aloft, mouthing the words to each and every song. As soon as En Vogue exit stage left, the duo makes a beeline for the exit.

“I thought they were amazing,” said Renee Watson, 40, of Washington, D.C. “Especially considering that they had been gone for so long. I think they could make a comeback.”

But could they? 2004 was the last time an R&B group made anything close to a comeback. That’s when Destiny’s Child reunited after a short break to release their fourth and final studio album, Destiny Fulfilled. Since then, unless you count the middling success of P. Diddy’s male quintet, Day26, R&B groups and duos — male and female — have gone the way of the compact disc.

Read more at The Root.

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